Australia’s GoGet celebrates decade of car-sharing success

September 11, 2012

When Bruce Jeffreys and Nic Lowe first considered starting a car-sharing company, they knew they faced a host of unknowns. Few people in Australia were familiar with the concept at the time, though many responded favourably to the idea when asked if they would use such a service.

In 2003, Bruce and Nic founded Newtown CarShare in Sydney with three vehicles and 12 members. (They changed the name to GoGet in 2005.) Today, the company has more than 800 vehicles, 20,000 members, and operates in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane.

GoGet, whose slogan is “Like owning a car, only better!” received the 2012 Game Changer Award from consumer watchdog Choice for its leadership in the car-sharing industry. As the company nears its 10th anniversary, Bruce reflected on the challenges GoGet faced early on.

“There were plenty – even the basics like getting insurance and financing, and we had to build the technology from scratch,” he says. “There was no awareness at all of car-sharing in Australia, so there was a huge challenge in educating people about this new type of service.”

A handful of competing car-sharing companies have joined the market since then, though GoGet holds 80 percent of the market share. Private vehicles remain its stiffest competition because they are still the preferred method of transport, Bruce says.

“Education is still important, but the market has really shifted over the last two or three years because of the economy. People don’t want the expense of car ownership,” he notes.

GoGet members can book a car online and then gain access to it by swiping a card over the windshield, which unlocks the doors and the keys are inside. Members are billed by the hour, and use a card stored in the glove box to pay for gas. GoGet’s fleet ranges from smaller, economy cars to vans. Last December, the company added an electric vehicle—a Mitsubishi i-MiEV—to its fleet.

“There are so many reasons we’re happy about this,” Bruce says. “The most obvious is that having an electric vehicle in a car-share fleet will give Melburnians a chance to actually try out an EV. This is really important because for most of us, EVs are still concepts, not real cars. Well, here’s a real electric car. We want people to unplug it and give it a spin.”

The EV launch was the outcome of a collaboration between GoGet and several community and governmental organizations, including the Department of Transport, the Moreland City Council, ChargePoint Australia, Places Victoria (formerly, VicUrban), Origin, and Urban Communities Limited. The car will contribute data to ongoing electric vehicle research as part of the Victorian Government’s Electric Vehicle Trial.

It’s an example of how closely Australia’s car-sharing industry works with government agencies and illustrates the differences in America’s system. In Australia, residential developers are often required to restrict the number of parking spaces. They can now offer transport options for residents by making sure car-share comes with the building.

“This has been a big trend, as have businesses using GoGet as a de facto fleet manager,” Bruce says.

As a founding member of the CarSharing Association, Bruce has myriad opportunities to travel to the US and other parts of the world providing information about his company and learning about other car-sharing models. He says public awareness about the benefits of car-sharing, including reducing car usage and improving local air quality, is on the rise in Australia.

“GoGet still needs to work hard to get the car-sharing message out there, but I think we’ve passed the point where car share is seen as a solution just for a relatively small portion of Australians,” he says. “It’s not a niche. Car-share can work for almost everybody.”

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